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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Ducati Marlboro Team – French GP – Preview

This Sunday, the Ducati Marlboro Team will take on the French Grand Prix for the fourth round of the season, at the Le Mans circuit that is also home to auto racing’s famous 24 hour race. That said, the track used by the MotoGP series is much shorter than the over 13 kilometer (8 mile) version used for the legendary endurance race, with which it only shares a small section.

The Bugatti circuit is often described as “stop and go” because it doesn’t flow from turn to turn. Nearly every corner is preceded by a straightaway—some long and others shorter—creating a situation where riders brake particularly hard and then accelerate abruptly.

Historically, it has proven to be a demanding track for the Ducati, which has nonetheless twice made the podium, with Capirossi in 2006 and with Stoner in 2007, while Nicky Hayden actually achieved his best result ever at the track aboard the Italian bike, with a fourth place last year.

Valentino Rossi has earned three victories, in 2002, 2005 and 2008, along with another four podiums. All of these were in MotoGP, as the French GP was held at Le Castellet when he raced in the 125 and 250cc classes.

VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Marlboro Team
“Le Mans is a historic track, and I always like to go to these places with rich motorsport traditions, even if the stop-and-go layout is a little particular. The atmosphere is always really nice, with the grandstand filled with fans on both Saturday and Sunday. The track isn’t particularly technical but maintaining a good rhythm is tricky: there are many points where we brake really hard for corners, so then it’s important to have strong acceleration on the exit. We’ll see how well we’re able to deal with those characteristics. We’re coming off a test that confirmed that we’ve started to go in the right direction and, although we’re still in the first phase, we hope we can find a good setup for Le Mans so that we can be faster in the qualifying session. We’re all working hard, and we’re making progress, but we still have to keep improving.”

NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team
“Traditionally, Le Mans hasn’t been a good track for me. I’ve never had a podium or a front row there, but I was fourth there last year, which was my best-ever result. You can’t really make too much out of that, but we’ll try to take the information we collected during the test at Estoril and see if we can put it to good use in France. The weather at Le Mans can be either way, especially this time of year, which is just part of racing. One good thing I look forward to is that I think the best strength of our bike right now is stability under hard braking, and Le Mans has a lot of hard braking. Traditionally, the grip there isn’t very good, so that’s something we’re probably really going to have to work on. We’ll go there and see what we’ve got.”

“On paper, Le Mans isn’t one of the most favorable tracks for us, but we’ve still had some good races there with Loris and Casey, and with Nicky, who was strong last year and finished close to the podium. He and Valentino were both pleased with the work we did during the post-race test at Estoril, and now the team will try to do everything it can to adapt to the GP11 to a circuit that’s very different from the one in Portugal. Once again we’re hoping for a sunny weekend, since every hour of track time in “normal” conditions is very important for us because of the work we’re doing.”


Circuit Record: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha – 2008), 1’34.215 – 159.910 Km/h
Best Pole: Dani Pedrosa (Honda – 2008), 1’32.647 – 162.617 Km/h
Circuit Length: 4.180 km
MotoGP Race 2011: 28 laps (117.180 km)
MotoGP Schedule 2011: 14:00 (2 p.m.) Local Time

PODIUM 2010: 1st Jorge Lorenzo, 2nd Valentino Rossi, 3rd Andrea Dovizioso
POLE 2010: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha – 2010), 1’33.408 – 161.292 Km/h

2010: 4th (Hayden)
2009: 5th (Stoner)
2008: 15th (Melandri)
2007: 3rd (Stoner)
2006: 2nd (Capirossi)
2005: 7th (Capirossi)
2004: 8th (Bayliss)
2003: DNF


Rossi’s MotoGP/500cc track record at Le Mans
2010: Grid: 1st; Race: 2nd
2009: Grid: 4th; Race: 16th
2008: Grid: 4th; Race: 1st
2007: Grid: 4th; Race: 6th
2006: Grid: 7th; Race: DNF
2005: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2004: Grid: 4th; Race: 4th
2003: Grid: 1st; Race: 2nd
2002: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2001: Grid: 3rd; Race: 3rd
2000: Grid: 10th; Race: 3rd

Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP11
Race number: 46
Age: 32 (born 16 February 1979 in Pesaro, Italy)
Residence: Tavullia (Pesaro, Italy)
Number of GPs: 244 (184 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
First GP: Malaysian GP, 1996 (125cc)
Number of wins: 105 (79 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12x 125cc)
First GP win: Czech Republic GP, 1996 (125cc)
Poles: 59 (49 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
First Pole: Czech Republic GP, 1996 (125cc)
World Titles: 9 (6 x MotoGP, 1 x 500cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 125cc)

Hayden’s MotoGP track record Le Mans
2010: Grid: 5th; Race: 4th
2009: Grid: 13th; Race: 12th
2008: Grid: 6th; Race: 8th
2007: Grid: 7th; Race: DNF
2006: Grid: 10th; Race: 5th
2005: Grid: 5th; Race: 6th
2004: Grid: 7th; Race: 11th
2003: Grid: 13th; Race: 12th

Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP11
Race number: 69
Age: 29 (born 30 July 1981 in Owensboro, Kentucky, USA)
Residence: Owensboro, Kentucky, USA
Number of GPs: 137 (137 x MotoGP)
First GP: Japanese GP, 2003 (MotoGP)
Number of wins: 3 (3 x MotoGP)
First GP win: USA GP, 2005 (MotoGP)
Poles: 5 (5 x MotoGP)
First Pole: USA GP, 2005 (MotoGP)
World Titles: 1 (MotoGP, 2006)